I recently saw a smartphone hack for reducing the number of unnecessary photos stored on your phone. In just five minutes a day, you can search the day’s date in your photo app and delete all unwanted pictures taken on the same date in previous years. It’s a quick daily practice that frees up lots of phone storage. As I’ve been deleting pictures I don’t need anymore, I’ve wondered what else we could do with small bursts of time like that.
In five minutes, you could do a quick decluttering of your house, walk around the block, answer a couple of emails, load the dishwasher. All good things, right? But what if we utilized our little moments of time throughout the day for our spiritual growth?
Meditate by Memorizing Scripture
I love to study Scripture, but I’ve often closed my Bible in the morning without thinking about God’s Word for the rest of the day. How do we stay connected to God and what we’re learning from Scripture when we have to get on with a day of parenting, work, and errands? In other words, how can we be like the psalmist, whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:2)? The answer is right there in a word we don’t often understand: meditates.
The Hebrew word for meditates means to mumble aloud to oneself. 1 This isn’t the mystical, mind-emptying form of meditation that the world practices. Rather, this kind of meditation means filling your mind with God’s Word, calling it to memory again and again.
But before you can call Scripture to mind over and over, you must first store it in your memory. Scripture memorization is an effective way to apply the biblical form of meditation that the psalmist refers to. When you memorize a verse or passage, you utilize repetition to work the words and phrases into your mind. The more you rehearse and recite something, the more firmly embedded it is in your memory. And, studies show that if you rehearse and recite it aloud, you’ll find greater success in memorization. 2
It Matters What You’re Memorizing
Whether I’m memorizing verses or whole books of the Bible, I’ve found that mumbling God’s Word aloud throughout the day in five-minute increments can have a profound, transformative effect. In five minutes, you can learn a new phrase or sentence of Scripture. You can recite a verse more than ten times. You can review an entire chapter of Scripture. Those little moments of time add up, cultivating life-changing spiritual growth.
God’s Word isn’t like any other book. It’s not a novel or a self-help book. It’s not merely a history book or a poetry anthology. Though the Bible includes all sorts of genres and styles, it is God’s holy and inspired Word. Every word is true. It is God’s revelation of himself to us. Scripture tells us who we are and how we’ve sinned. It also tells us how God has loved us in sending Jesus to save and free us from bondage to sin. And, Scripture is useful for all the training and correction we need in the Christian life (see 2 Tim. 3:16).
Meditating on God’s Word has a powerful effect on the way we think, react, make decisions, and fight sin because these aren’t our words. They’re God’s words. Holy, inspired, inerrant. As you mumble these words aloud and fix them into your long-term memory, you will think deeply about them. You’ll observe and ponder important truths like who God is, who we were before he made us alive in Christ, the depth of God’s love for us, the danger and deceitfulness of sin, and the promises of our inheritance through Christ. Rolling the phrases of Scripture around in your mouth will have a transformative effect on your mind and heart. Meditation on God’s Word leads to deepened faith in God and an expanded love for him.
Getting Started with Scripture Memorization
Even if you’ve never practiced Scripture memorization, you have everything you need to get started. First, choose a passage you’d like to memorize. Start with something that’s somewhat familiar, like a passage your pastor recently preached on or a psalm you learned as a child. Write the passage on a piece of paper or index card and put it where you’ll see it often. Maybe you’ll tape it to the window above your kitchen sink or on your bathroom mirror. You could write it on Post-it Notes and stick them on your desk at work. I like to put mine in a zip-top bag and tape it to my shower wall, where I see it every morning. The goal is to utilize moments when your hands are busy but your mind is not.
Second, start with the first phrase. Read it aloud ten times and then recite it aloud without looking ten times. Later, when you have five minutes, try it again. When you can recite it aloud without missing any portion of it, move to the next phrase and start the process again, tagging on the new portion to what you’ve already learned. Keep going, phrase by phrase—letting the punctuation guide you—until you’ve finished the verse or passage. Then move on to a new passage when you’re ready, reviewing the previous passage once a month to keep it fresh.
Make Your Minutes Count with Scripture Memorization
Scripture memorization doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not a quick process, but the slowness of meditation keeps you coming back to the Word over and over, thinking about the Lord and the truths he has revealed in Scripture. In time, those five-minute increments add up, producing growth and discernment in your life. As you meditate on Scripture, mumbling it aloud and thinking deeply on it, you’ll find your heart and mind returning to the Lord throughout your day. You’ll learn to think like him, love like him, and respond like him, shining the light of Christ to those around you. Five short minutes. Little moments redeemed. Long-term life transformation.
Meet the Author
Glenna Marshall is a pastor’s wife and mother of two energetic sons. She's the author of The Promise is His Presence, Everyday Faithfulness, and Memorizing Scripture. She writes regularly at GlennaMarshall.com on biblical literacy, suffering, and the faithfulness of God. She is a member of Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston, Missouri. You can connect with her on Instagram.
- "H1897 - hāḡâ - Strong's Hebrew Lexicon (ESV)," Blue Letter Bible, accessed October 6, 2023, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h1897/esv/wlc/0-1/.
- Chelsea Pyne, “Reading Out Loud Improves Memory” Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, March 9, 2018, https://alzheimersprevention.org/reading-out-loud-improves-memory/.